Rockefeller Center is a complex of 19 commercial buildings covering 22 acres (89,000 m2) between 48th and 51st streets in New York City, United States. Built by the Rockefeller family, it is located in the center of Midtown Manhattan, spanning the area between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987.
Rockefeller Center was named after John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who leased the space from Columbia University in 1928 and developed it from 1930. Rockefeller initially planned a syndicate to build an opera house for the Metropolitan Opera on the site but changed his mind after the stock market crash of 1929 and the Metropolitan’s continual delays to hold out for a more favorable lease, causing Rockefeller to move forward without them. Rockefeller stated “It was clear that there were only two courses open to me. One was to abandon the entire development. The other to go forward with it in the definite knowledge that I myself would have to build it and finance it alone.” He took on the enormous project as the sole financier, on a 27-year lease (with the option for three 21-year renewals for a total of 87 years) for the site from Columbia; negotiating a line of credit with the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company and covering ongoing expenses through the sale of oil company stock. The initial cost of acquiring the space and razing some of the building and construction of the new building was an estimated $250,000,000 dollars; a staggering sum in 1930.
It was the largest private building project ever undertaken in modern times. Construction of the 14 buildings in the Art Deco style (without the original opera house proposal) began on May 17, 1930, and was completed in 1939. Principal builder, and “managing agent”, for the massive project was John R. Todd and the principal architect was Raymond Hood, working with and leading three architectural firms, on a team that included a young Wallace Harrison, later to become the family’s principal architect and adviser to Nelson Rockefeller. The construction of the project employed over 40,000 people.
30 Rock at Night
GE Building (RCA Building)
The centerpiece of Rockefeller Center is the 70-floor, 872-foot (266 m) GE Building at 30 Rockefeller Plaza (“30 Rock”, also the name of a comedy television show) formerly known as the RCA Building – centered behind the sunken plaza. The building is the setting for the famous Lunchtime atop a Skyscraper photograph, taken by Charles C. Ebbets in 1932 of workers having lunch, sitting on a steel beam, without safety harnesses. The 840-foot (260 m) drop lies below.
The building was renamed in the 1980’s after General Electric (GE) re-acquired RCA, which it helped found in 1919. The famous Rainbow Room club restaurant is located on the 65th floor; the Rockefeller family office covers the 54–56th floors. The skyscraper is the headquarters of NBC and houses most of the network’s New York studios, including 6A, former home of Late Night with David Letterman and Late Night with Conan O’Brien and current home of The Dr. Oz Show; 6B, home of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon; 8H, home of Saturday Night Live; plus the operations of NBC News, MSNBC and local station WNBC. NBC currently owns the space it occupies in the building as a condominium arrangement.
Unlike most other Art Deco towers built during the 1930s, the GE Building was constructed as a slab with a flat roof, where the Center’s newly renovated observation deck, the Top of the Rock is located, which was first built in 1933. The $75 million makeover of the observation area was carried out by the Center’s owner, Tishman Speyer Properties and was finally completed in 2005. It spans from the 67–70th floors and includes a multimedia exhibition exploring the history of the Center. On the 70th floor, reached by both stairs and elevator, there is a 20-foot (6.1 m) wide viewing area, allowing visitors a unique 360-degree panoramic view of New York City.
At the front of 30 Rock is the Lower Plaza, in the very center of the complex, which is reached from 5th Avenue through the Channel Gardens and Promenade. The acclaimed sculptor Paul Manship was commissioned in 1933 to create a masterwork (see below) to adorn the central axis, below the famed annual Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, but all the other original plans to fill the space were abandoned over time. It wasn’t until Christmas Day in 1936 that the ice-skating rink was finally installed and the popular Center activity of ice-skating began.
Prometheus by Sculptor Paul Manship – 1933
Rockefeller Center represents a turning point in the history of architectural sculpture: it is among the last major building projects in the United States to incorporate a program of integrated public art. Sculptor Lee Lawrie contributed the largest number of individual pieces – twelve – including the statue of Atlas facing Fifth Avenue and the conspicuous friezes above the main entrance to the RCA Building.
Paul Manship‘s highly recognizable bronze gilded statue of the Greek legend of the Titan Prometheus recumbent, bringing fire to mankind, features prominently in the sunken plaza at the front of 30 Rockefeller Plaza. The model for Prometheus was Leonardo (Leon) Nole, and the inscription from Aeschylus, on the granite wall behind, reads: “Prometheus, teacher in every art, brought the fire that hath proved to mortals a means to mighty ends.”
(description: excerpts from Wikipedia)
Atlas in the rain…